By Anne Dachel
It is my great privilege to name David Kirby, Age of Autism's Reporter of Year. I know that for many of us in the autism community, that's an understatement. David should be receiving a lifetime achievement award for what he's done.
I'm qualified to write on this, not because of any degree in journalism, but due to my years of dealing with members of the press who report on autism, especially the topic of vaccines and autism. Many other parents do the same thing. Our earnest hope is that they'll report both sides of the issue honestly. It's rare that this happens, however. Most in the media are content to give the last word to the medical community and to federal health officials who adamantly deny that vaccines could be causing autism. Even though I always send the facts--the science that disputes the tired mantra of "studies show no link," few reporters take notice, even when what I send directly contradicts what they've written. Sometimes, someone will write to tell me that they'll save my email, "in case I ever write on this topic again." Even worse, is an email from a reporter saying, "Please don't send me any more information on autism; I'm no longer covering this issue."
As a parent and as someone in touch with so many others who have vaccine-injured children, it's hard to understand the failure of the media to sound an alarm over countless children everywhere with autism. Why are those charged with reporting the news so willing to pretend that it's normal to have hundreds of thousands of kids diagnosed with something no one ever heard about twenty-five years ago?
David Kirby is the exception. Like Woodward and Bernstein in All the President's Men, he knew something was going on that no one else was seeing. It all started with the last-minute rider put into the Homeland Security Bill in 2002 giving liability protection to vaccine makers for any damage caused by the mercury-based vaccine preservative, thimerosal. In researching this, David gradually came to know the full scope of the autism crisis and the controversial link to unsafe vaccines.
David could never have known back in 2002 that his interest in the Homeland Security rider would lead to a best-selling book, Evidence of Harm, and appearances on shows like Meet the Press and Larry King Live, Or that it would make him a major player in the most heated debate in medicine.
David didn't take on this issue for financial gain or personal fame. He said this about the money he's made on the book, "This income has been spread over a six-year period..., for an average of about $23,000 per year. That amount covered my rent in New York City, but not much else."
The link between vaccines and autism is a subject that incurs the immediate wrath of the medical community and federal health officials. I think it's one of the reasons so few in the media are willing to take it on. (Plus there's the pressure not to talk about it because of the billions in revenue from pharmaceutical advertising.)
From the start, David knew he'd found a dangerous topic that he once told me was like attacking motherhood. Vaccines are the sacred cow of health care. Raising questions about damaging side effects might cause parents not to vaccinate and there was the possibility that kids could die from vaccine-preventable diseases.
But David's never advocated that parents don't vaccinate. His book was Evidence of Harm, not Proof of Harm. He's rationally asked officials to look at the research and the statistics that challenge their safety claims.
That's something that the government isn't willing to do. We continue to hear about their endless studies that show no link. Any other research is dismissed as "flawed." The mantra, "vaccines are safe, vaccines save lives" is used to counter the charge of damaging side effects.
This isn't just about the science and David knows that too. It's about who will be held responsible if it's clearly shown that through complete oversight failure, a generation of children has been exposed to unsafe vaccines with devastating results. There are many people with everything at stake in this and that's why the denials never stop.
I first met David Kirby in person in 2005, in a Congressional conference room in Washington. He was speaking along with Scott Bono from the National Autism Association and Congressman Dan Burton of Indiana. But David was the outsider; someone who didn't have an affected family member.
To me, he is the crusading reporter who found a subject that he can't just walk away from--because the story isn't finished.
When the concession by the federal vaccine court on Hannah Poling was announced in March, 2008, David covered it. While health officials were saying that it didn't mean vaccines actually cause autism, David followed it up and (HERE) reported about a second, unpublicized concession in the Poling case. David told us that it said that Hannah's vaccines "caused" her "autistic" brain disease. The government continues to cover up the link between vaccines and autism but David gives the public the facts.
I recently met with David at the Somali Autism Forum in Minneapolis. He was there because it's more of the story. He was looking into the stunning number of Somali children with autism, born to highly vaccinated immigrant mothers. No one else reporting about this.
An Age of Autism story on December 11 (HERE) by David Kirby was about an email he had just received from U.S. Army Captain, Joe Mickley, father of three sons who have autism. Capt. Mickley believes that vaccines are responsible for what happened to his children. He ended his letter by saying, "Again sir, I thank you and hope that you may never grow tired in your efforts, because my family and many others count on you."
There are so many parents who share in Capt. Mickley's hopes. Like David in the Old Testament, David Kirby's taken on a Goliath and the battle isn't over yet. I'd like to simply say, "David, I love you for what you do. Thank you for caring about our children."